Richard Burgess, 25.02.2023
We were made for faith, for courageous faith. Effectively all faith should be courageous, but for various reasons it can end up as intellectual assent rather than a dynamic life – more on that later.
We were made for faith that is courageous, bold and dynamic. The Bible is a faith document – not first and foremost a science book, complete history or intended to be great literature… It’s written that we might know God, and live the life of faith. In Hebrews 11 we have what has been described as the Hall of Faith, something quite different to the hall of fame. Stories of men and women who against the odds believed God and his word. The history of the church down through the centuries includes many more.
But what is faith?
1. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance/reality of things hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” There is a concreteness to it that undergirds, gives hope and drives forward. It is a knowing in your knower. It involves a measure of understanding, assent and trust. 20 times the writer illustrates such: “by faith…”
2. It comes through the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes through the word/message about Christ” (Romans 10:17). Faith has a reliable basis, God and his word. If you want to grow in faith, get into the Word. It is also revealed in a person, “the message about Christ.” He is the author and Finisher of our faith. Faith is maintained by keeping our eyes on him (Heb 12:1,2).
3. The life of faith holds out different possibilities. Life of ever-increasing faith. That will be different for each one of us. We are not all called to be a Billy Graham, Jackie Pulinger, David Wilkerson, Heidi Baker etc.
4. Faith will be contested, by the unbelieving, by the devil… Paul wrote to Timothy encouraging him to, “Fight the good fight of the faith.”
Courageous faith believes God in spite of and against all the odds. It believes that God is sovereign, is bigger, and better, than everything life and the enemy might throw at us; and that he is worthy of all of our trust. He is a good God.
Courageous faith can operate at all sorts of levels: from coming to Christ, to being baptised, receiving the Spirit, praying for somebody, giving a prophetic word, sharing a word of knowledge, confessing a besetting sin, seeking help, to witnessing to a colleague or neighbour, doing a course, to going for and accepting a promotion, to talking to someone else for the first time.
Faith by its very nature takes us out of our comfort zones into areas where our knowledge, expertise and ability will be lacking, and we have to trust in God.
What robs us of courageous faith?
• Materialism – preoccupation with money and possessions as most important, no need of God. It happened to Israel. They became comfortable.
• Cynicism – doubts the motives and actions of others; it’s ultimately self protecting and preserving.
• Difficulties and Disappointment… Life doesn’t turn out as expected, you’re overwhelmed by circumstances, unanswered prayers, an unexpected diagnosis, the loss of a job, a marriage breakdown… Perhaps that’s you. James writes to a group of Christians who were finding things were difficult, things hadn’t turned out as expected and they had retreated and developed a private, personal spirituality where they were no longer living out their faith before an unbelieving world.
• Seeing the giants rather than the promises and power of God – think of the spies in the Old Testament story who explored the land. Two had a good report, ten had a bad report and democracy won the day.
• Passivity – failure to act. Passivity is dangerous, it can rob you of the life of God without you knowing.
• FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. How many times have you feared something and it has not turned out to be as bad as you thought?
• Fear of what others may think. “The fear of man,” says scripture, “is a snare” (Prov 29:25), and too many are bound by it.
- Know God – seek to grow in your knowledge and experience of God.
- God’s word – get into the word – as I said earlier it is first and foremost a faith document. Feed on it. Let it inspire you.
- God’s Spirit – Paul said to Timothy who appears to have withdrawn into himself because Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. Do not be ashamed… rely on the power of God” (2 Tim 1:7, 8). Following Pentecost, the Spirit transformed the early disciples from fearful cowards to courageous, faith filled, people who turned their world upside down!
- Intentionality. There is no faith without intentionality. It requires the willingness to hear and do, to step out. Paul said to Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”(1 Tim 6:12). And James wrote to those struggling and disillusioned exhorting them to stir up their faith; to give life and energy to it by putting it into action (James 2:14-26).
John Ortberg, wrote a book called, If you want to walk on the water you’ve got to get out of the boat. We tend to be so critical of Peter, when we are the ones sitting safely in the boat. I wonder have you heard God speaking to you, but fear has gripped you and you are still stuck in the boat? I wonder what boat you need to get out of to walk on the water today? Confess a sin? Speak to someone about Christ? Offer to pray for someone? Share a prophetic word? etc.. Will you do it?